As summer peeks its head over the horizon and delivers long, sparkling days, Melbournians have emerged from hibernation, ready to shake off their moon-tans. Energised by the impending year-close, December is a month-long festa laden with cocktail food, booze and frivolity. Consequently, sleep has become a luxury, I’m getting by jamming anything sugared and/or caffeinated into my face, and my gym bag is a throbbing sack of guilt gathering dust in the corner of my office. It is a time of year that is equal parts exhilarating and shatteringly exhausting. My petrol light has ignited and I’m craving fresh, clean food to replenish my energy reserves. In this vein, I was keen to visit Ashkelon Food Store, ‘combining slow food technique with modern convenience and seasonal produce’. Ashkelon is a part cafe, part take away venue, part food store, offering edibles that are preservative free, and where possible, sourced locally from ethical suppliers. Already feel that Christmas party hangover dissipating?
All of the dishes are cooked on-site by Leilani Wolfenden (previously of Next Door Diner, Est Est Est and Ondine), and the menu constantly morphs to take advantage of prime seasonal produce, meaning plenty of options to keep your bouche amused. All of the takeaway goods are served in the cafe, and consist of various reheatable complete meals such as Flinders Island lamb shanks, smoky eggplant with demeter chickpeas, or biodynamic pilaf rice with caramelised onions, roasted cauliflower and herbs. The shelves are lined with various tasty accompaniments including blood orange and Campari marmalade, black olive and dill salt, zucchini pickles, chutney with tamarind, pear and dates, and lush breakfast options such as chocolate museli, and leatherwood granola.
For $12.90 they offer a generous plate sampling the salads of the day overflowing with seasonal ingredients. I ate my way around plate of containing a salad of nutty organic barley, firm but creamy chunks of baked ricotta, sweet sultanas and cranberries, one of ra el hanout, cous cous, walnuts and Jerusalem artichokes, sweet potato, tender peas, another one with zucchini flower, fennel and wild rice, and another with sweet stringy dutch carrots and zucchini ribbons with a yoghurty dressing. I would have liked a little more acidity and seasoning, but I was nicely compensated with a dish of home-brewed chilli, lemon and garlic salt. It is pure, unadulterated good food. The beef shin pie was rich and flavoursome encased in a crumbly buttery pastry. This was served with a chutney studded with plump fruits, or a smooth and smoky barbecue sauce. And we got the whole jars to knock ourselves out on. The soup of the day was an ode to the classic pea and ham – a light broth with al dente peas, smoky ham hock, and discs of soft potato floating around. Again, this needed a little seasoning, but the soup was light and the flavours were well balanced. Ashkelon remedies the difficulty to juggle our time-poor lifestyles, with our desire to eat good food, and interest in where our food actually comes from. Sure, we’ve all had our fun with the gourmet fast-food boom of burgers, tacos, donuts, cronuts and fried chicken (mmm yes, they were good times). But when it all catches up to you, and you just want good food that nourishes – Ashkelon will be there.
Ashkelon Food Store, 321 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North, Victoria, Australia 3068
- Monday 8:00 am – 7:00 pm
- Tuesday 8:00 am – 7:00 pm
- Wednesday 8:00 am – 7:00 pm
- Thursday 8:00 am – 7:00 pm
- Friday 8:00 am – 7:00 pm
- Saturday 10.00 am – 4.00 pm
- Sunday – closed
- Ashkelon will be closed from December 23rd 2013 and re-open on January 6th 2014.